We asked local trendsetters to name a 'signature dish' for Orlando 

There’s a movement afoot among some tourism and restaurant industry folk to name a “signature dish” for Orlando. Rock shrimp, stone crab and grouper sandwiches belong to the coast; Key lime pie to the Keys. So what does that leave for the City Tasteful – gator tail? Thanks, but nah.

So we asked a few trendsetters around town: If it were completely up to you, what would Orlando’s signature dish be? Some got saucy, but some took it seriously. Here’s what they had to say.

Mark Baratelli

Owner, the Daily City Food Truck Bazaar

"Our county has a very rich street food culture with some excellent food trucks run by professional local owners. If you come to Orlando you must get a taco from Tako Cheena, the Hula Hula chicken from Over Rice and an ice cream sandwich from Midnight Sun ice cream truck."

Emily Ellyn

Food Network Star, Cupcake Warrior and Cutthroat Kitchen champ

"Mamma feels we need to let that dish simmer a bit. As proud as I am of this big melting pot of a food city, we really don't have our own dish yet. Something like that needs to evolve organically."

Matt Heafy

Guitarist and lead vocalist, Trivium

"Cuban bánh mì served with red beans and rice. Bam! Cuban. Vietnamese. Caribbean/Haitian. That's pretty representative of Orlando."

Scott Maxwell

Orlando Sentinel columnist

"I've always said Orlando is a crock pot of cultures. So I reckon I'd go with that – a crock pot stew filled with mojito pork, gator sausage and Fleet-Farmed veggies, all served over an authentic Florida Cracker biscuit."

Ricky Ly

Owner, Tasty Chomps Food Blog; civil engineer

"I would vote for the King's Feast at King Cajun Crawfish: boiled shrimp, crawfish, potatoes and corn all in a spicy sha-bang sauce. It's Southern but with a Vietnamese twist – garlic, butter, spices and slices of citrusy orange and lemon – a humble dish with a lot of culture and kick, just like Orlando."

Greg Richie

Chef, Soco; partner, Thornton Park Restaurant Group

"It seems to me that most regions that have a 'signature dish' have come by it organically. I think it'll be challenging to conjure one up for Central Florida by design, but I think we can all agree that meatloaf is something most everyone can love. And who has better meatloaf than Soco, really?"

Matthew Peddie

Host of "Intersection," WMFE-FM

"Does Orlando have a signature dish? No. But if I were to pick one food item that I associate with the City Beautiful, it would be the bánh mì. Pork, pâté, lime, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños ... jammed into a baguette. It's a beautiful collision of flavors, somewhat like the mélange of cultures in Orlando. Plus you can eat it with one hand – perfect for driving on I-4."

Hari Pulapaka

Chef, Cress Restaurant; mathematician; sustainability advocate

"Not-from-Florida, citrus-cured, don't-know-where-this-fish-came-from served with roasted squash delivered from a big truck, Mexican-grown cilantro, and off-season, heavily subsidized corn."

Art Smith

Chef, Art Smith's Homecomin'; author

"Turkey leg from Disney. I think sheer volume wins out."

Norman Van Aken

Chef, Norman's and 1921 by Norman Van Aken; author; bon vivant

"Magic mushroom mousse!"

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

More in Bite



Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 8, 2020


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation